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Marine Ecosystems

Changes in climate threaten Antarctic and Southern Ocean marine ecosystems.

Southern Ocean ecosystems are an integral part of the Earth system. They perform a range of globally important ecosystem services, such as contributing to biodiversity, nutrient and biogeochemical cycling, climate regulation, fisheries, and wildlife tourism, that support human communities and economies across the globe. Together with direct human impacts (such as fishing, pollution, tourism, and shipping), climate change is already causing changes in Southern Ocean environments (e.g., changes in the wind patterns, the cryosphere, ocean acidification, ocean circulation, air and sea temperatures). Continued changes threaten the habitats of key species, which will result in shifts in species distribution and abundance, and community composition. These in turn will affect the structure and functioning of Southern Ocean ecosystems, including for example the survival of iconic and key-stone species (such as Antarctic krill, penguins, and whales), the future availability of living resources to international fisheries, and the ability of these ecosystems to regulate climate.

These threats will in turn affect the complex life-histories and distributions of air-breathing predators (including seabirds, seals and whales), pelagic (e.g. phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish and squid) and benthic communities (e.g., crustaceans, worms, molluscs, starfish, sea urchins, corals, sponges and bryozoans) across a range of spatial and temporal scales. Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystem change may affect variables such as carbon and nutrient cycling, biodiversity, and availability of marine living resources to current international fisheries.

The magnitude and direction of these physical changes are likely to differ between regions across the Antarctic, and hence the responses of species, populations and food webs may also be regionally variable.


The final storylines will be selected based on their impact on marine ecosystems. In this section you will find how our Antarctic storylines impact marine ecosystems.